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Catalyst Video Services was recently contacted by Dell Technologies in Texas, USA with a request to provide a CEO interview and b-roll video footage for inclusion in their online marketing videos.

Dell Technologies had been trying to get a camera crew over to the UK since the start of the COVID pandemic but decided instead to contact Cambridgeshire-based Catalyst Video Services with the brief of providing footage for use in several of their latest marketing videos. The requirement was to provide footage of four different aspects of Cambridge University for their marketing: interior shots of the Cambridge Open Exascale Laboratory; a video interview between Dell (in Texas) and the CEO of the Exascale Laboratory; a variety of external and internal shots of Pembroke College and its students; and finally a range of general shots of the University City of Cambridge.

Liaison – a key part to any video project

Before any cameras had been turned on and any footage shot the most important element of the project undertaken by Catalyst was the liaison between the client (both in the USA and UK), Cambridge University and various employees and PA’s of the Exascale Laboratory. Everyones busy, everyones either working from home or following very strict pandemic rules and regulations. And so trying to organise permissions, access, interview locations and interviewees that suits timings in multiple locations in both the UK and the USA was quite an undertaking.

Blind, deaf and dumb – shooting footage in a supercomputing environment

The first thing that strikes you when turning up to video in the Cambridge Exascale Laboratory is the noise. The supercomputers are running 10 to a 100 times faster then the fastest systems of today producing 4 quadrillion operations per second, 24/7. That’s a lot of computational power and requires significant amounts of energy to run and to keep the computers cooled – all of which produces a LOT of noise. So high-quality ear defenders are a must which means you can’t hear anyone and you can’t easily communicate with anyone. Alongside that the client had requested that we provide footage of the banks of computers with the main lights switched off in order to show off the hundreds of operational flashing LED lights. So adjusting the camera settings came down to memory and touch!

An interview with a twist

As one of the key collaborators in making the Exascale Laboratory a reality, Dell Technologies were keen to film an interview with the CEO to get his input on the project, its contribution to research and its future plans. Due to the noise at the Exascale Laboratory it was decided to stage the interviews at Pembroke College (the Cambridge University partner) and as the interviewer from Dell Technologies couldn’t be present in person it was decided to conduct the interview via Zoom. Needless to say, and mainly due to excellent organisation on the part of Pembroke College and Catalyst, the interview went quickly and smoothly.

Filming at Pembroke College and Cambridge – a gift

The next part of the project was to provide ‘stock’ b-roll footage of both Pembroke College and Cambridge itself. Catalyst were given unprecedented access to Pembroke’s beautiful grounds, chapels, rooms and dining areas in order to provide footage of student life on the campus and several students were on hand to act as models for a variety of location shots. Catalyst then spent a further day garnering a variety of locational shots around Cambridge and the university.

Supplying RAW footage

Finally the footage was downloaded to our systems and cleaned up and colour balanced. The footage was then transferred to hard disk and couriered to Dell Technologies in Texas for inclusion in a number of marketing and information videos – on time and on budget. Some of the videos appear below:

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Author PJC

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